Dialog 1:

A - Don't you want to meet her?

B - Yes, but--

A - So/Then go over there.

Dialog 2:

A - Didn't I just tell you to stay out of this?

B - Yes, but--

A - So/Then what the hell are you doing?

Hi, all. Is there any small difference between "so" and "then" in the two examples above? Would they be equally natural to use in both examples?

  • Generally speaking, then is used with two people talking, or as two sentences, like you have demonstrated above. (Example: "You wanted to meet her? Then go over there." - It assumes an empty response, from the other person, between the sentences.) So would be used more frequently with a single speaker like: "You wanted to meet her, so you should go over there." Apr 22 at 15:43
  • When used before an imperative, so and then are near-synonymous (they both mean Therefore, In that case, Consequently, Hence,...). Purely a personal opinion, but I feel that so is potentially a bit more "blunt, dismissive, confrontational" in such contexts. They're both potentially "rude", anyway - but that's no problem in the cited context, where the speaker is obviously "talking down" to the addressee. Apr 22 at 16:22

In these sorts of applications, both "so" and "then" can be used interchangeably, and mean more or less the same thing.

Personally, to my ear, there is a slightly different nuance between them, but it is not anything very large or significant:

  • "Then" has a little bit more of the feeling of a logical appeal. That is, it suggests "You should realize for yourself (if you think about it) that this follows from the previous thing"
  • "So" has slightly more of the feeling of pushing your own decision on the other person. That is, it suggests "I have decided that this follows from the previous thing"

But many people may not even make this distinction themselves, and may not see any difference between them..

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